Why would you want to come to Crete in winter?

The White Mountains after a heavy snow fall

The last article about winter tourism in Crete discussed the steps needed to make winter tourism possible, or at least more accessible. In this one I’d like to list a few reasons for coming to Crete in winter. I am sure that I’ll miss some so if you have been to Crete in winter or live on the island please add your views in the Comments section.

What seems to me to be the most attractive aspect of visiting Crete in the winter is not the warmer weather but the amazing contrast between Crete and northern Europe: as autumn progresses and northern countries slide into a world of grey and white, in Crete the first heavy rains that usually occur around October or November clear the air of the summer dust and make grass sprout within days. December brings the first spring flowers, snow capped mountains and emerald fields whilst the wind in the olive trees turns them silver.  By February and March Crete is at its most colourful – and in a sense its most powerful .

Flowering almond trees above Platanias

The warmer weather is of course another very attractive aspect. I don’t want to bore you with weather statistics but suffice to say that when the sun shines it is strong and warming and you could easily sunbathe on a good day. Even the sea doesn’t get that cold. The lowest temperatures (in late February) are just above 15°C.
And when it rains (which happens around 60 days of the year in the North-West of Crete where it rains most) it generally pours – none of this never ending drizzle and greyness – then it passes and the sun comes out again.

What you will also appreciate in the winter is that there are no crowds. It’s a perfect time to visit museums and famous archaeological sites. You can actually enjoy strolling and dreaming of the past through the empty alleys of Knossos instead of having to elbow your way through throngs of tourists in the baking summer heat.

An olive grove in winter

Winter is also a great time to go to places like Elafonisi or Balos that are nowadays best avoided in summer. And of course, if you like walking, winter is a wonderful time: green, cool and full of flowers. But you’ll have to accept that the weather, unlike the period from May to September, can be unstable (and sometimes really vile).

A very pleasant side-effect of the lack of tourists in winter is that you will be noticed and treated as a visitor, a guest, and not a faceless number in the crowds.
Of course if winter tourism ever takes hold in Crete there will be more people and you won’t be able to spend a whole day in, say, Elafonisi and only meet two or three other human beings but I am sure that it will always remain a low key and relaxed affair for people who look for more than generic sea and sun.

Before any significant winter tourism occurs I suggest that it is best to avoid staying in the purely touristic resorts because they shut down in winter. Even if you find accommodation there won’t be much life, maybe no restaurants open, possibly not even shops. It is probably best to stay in towns such as Chania where life goes on in winter and hire a car (you can get really good deals in winter) to go around.

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